30 Second Networking Tip #66
Asking questions when you network is critical. But asking the wrong ones too soon can get you in hot water fast.
While these lists can be fun and easy to consume, keep in mind they my not be as useful as they seem at first glance. In a world where you can “google” anything don’t fall into the trap of thinking information is knowledge. Lists can be useful, but they can also give you a false sense that you are learning more than you really are. They are the cliff’s notes of learning, so treat them with care.
In my business, business training and coaching, these lists are particularly popular. It seems like every magazine, blog or social media site is full of articles that include numbers. Not just research numbers or financial numbers… list numbers. Expert’s top 10 this, and 6 hot ways to do that. You can find lists to tell you about how to find a job, what to say in an interview, how to close a sale, or the tips for networking.
I assume you’re going to continue to click on the lists… frankly, so am I. So to help you out I’ve compiled my own Top 5 List. Here are some things to keep in mind as you consume those enticing lists. While you’re clicking through them think about how you might really use the information they provide you. Again, lists are not good or bad. Just be thoughtful about what you’re truly getting.
Please use those “listacles” responsibly in business conversation. Keep these tips in mind and you should get more out of your list surfing. And yes, I’m aware of the irony of saying this in a “5 things” list post. I didn’t say they don’t work. You’re here reading it aren’t you? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Why fight the rising tide. Maybe my next post should be “The 10 reasons I should write more 10 reasons posts”.
Feel free to connect with me directly at www.linkedin.com/in/ericbyrd.
My friend is a marketing consultant and she’s got a client that drives her nuts. She went on to tell me that this well meaning entrepreneur needed to increase sales and so wanted my friend to help him generate leads for his business. I believe I said something to the effect of “well, that’s completely reasonable, right? That’s what you do for people.” To which she said in an exasperated tone, “Yes, but I can’t help him if he doesn’t understand his own business! He doesn’t understand what business he’s in so it’s impossible for me to know how to help him.”
This lead to a fairly lengthy discussion about what a business owner really needs to know to make any marketing, promotional activities or even prospecting for customers possible. The following is a list of the top three things “you’d better know this about your business”. These are the high priority items I took away from the conversation, hopefully they can help you too.
This may seem odd to some. Why you do what you do? Well, yes… knowing why you got into the business your in can tell you volumes about many aspects of your business. Why drives how you structure your company to deliver specific products or services. It can help you determine the mix of those products and services. If you are an IT service provider and you started your company to help small businesses then you are going to want to spend time thinking about what small business need, not waste time modeling what IBM is bringing to British Petroleum.
It can help you set priorities when you are faced with a decision. If you are in business to make sure customers get the best possible service then you’re going to think differently about cutting back on live customer service reps or installing an automated system that only allows you t leave voice mails. The focus comes from the why of your business.
Simon Sinek talks about the importance of the Why in your business in his great book Start with Why. He gives examples of companies that are clear about their why, and the power that gives them in marketing clearly and effectively to their customer base.
Okay, that’s two things technically. But they are so tightly intertwined that they could be seen as the same thing. I find that many businesses are not clear on what they actually do for a living. That may sound strange, but it is easy to get confused as your business expands and takes on other lines of products and services. This is especially common when the founder of the company wakes up one day and “finds himself in business”.
What I mean is that often small businesses are started by subject matter experts or someone with a particular skill. When you began your auto repair business is was just you in your garage out back. Then you needed some help, so Jimmy from down the street started helping you. Then you moved to a two bay garage in town and you added another mechanic and another helper. Then you needed someone in the office to answer phones. As you expanded you brought on other projects and services to keep your customers engaged and buying from you.
The next thing you know you’re running a 10 person company. One that you didn’t design intentionally, nor did you really plan any processes or structure. You just did what you needed to do when you needed to do it. You also find that now you need a certain amount of revenue and profit to keep the doors open. People are depending on you now. But you’ve lost sight of the core business and you get distracted by those really neat tire gizmos in the shop and decide maybe you should make a push to sell more tire rotational balancing and polishing. Unfortunately that distracts you from your real business… repairing broken cars. If you’re not clear what you really do for a living you can spend time and money going down rat holes and working with the wrong types of customers.
The example above brings us to the last important factor… your customer. If you are not clear who your best customers are you can get lost in trying to market to the wrong client base. This is common in small businesses where it was not completely clear who was being served to begin with. When you began your virtual assistant service you would work with whoever was paying. But over time you’ve realized that all clients are not created equal. Some clients somehow end up eating up all your time. Other clients are a handful to manage. All that extra hand holding and management eats into your profitability.
By being clear who you work best for, and with, you can focus on the right clients for your particular business. A lot has been written about creating an ideal client avatar, or profile to use in your business. While I think that’s a great idea, it’s often useful to be careful not to miss the mark. Marketers are there to help you refine your message and get the word out to a specific target market. However, if you are trying to promote your business to a target market that isn’t really a good fit for your business model then you can end up with mixed results. Marketers can feed people what they want to hear and get them to come in the door. But if they are not truly a fit for your business they won’t stay. In the long run this customer churn will eat at your profit. It’s more productive to figure out who you really serve well and focus on them, instead of just trying to figure out what the market wants to hear.
These three seemingly simple things cause more angst and failure for small business than perhaps anything else. If you don’t know these things you run a serious risk of floundering. Not only because you will have a difficult time explaining your business to investors or potential customers in a crowded marketplace, but you will have a difficult time making decisions about what help you may need to help you market your venture. I highly recommend you spend some time focused on learning these crucial things about your business. Your success may be on the line if you don’t.
What do you think? Click below and leave a comment about your experience in business. Do you know someone who isn’t clear about what business he or she is in? Are you struggling with your own business identity too? I’m curious.
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I’m not just talking about your physical environment, but also your social environment. The key is to surround yourself with things that are not just positive but inspiring. That goes for the people you bring into your circle of influence too. Your environment does matter. A study by Dr. Nicholas Christakis and Dr. James Fowler found that people who are surrounded by happy people are more likely to be happy themselves.
Happy people are more productive… even you. The people and situations you surround yourself with can have a positive and profound impact on how you perceive the world, and therefore how you live in it. So be intentional about who and what you keep nearby.
Another way to impact your success is to grow yourself, not just your business. Emotional and intellectual growth both help you stretch yourself in good ways. Read books. Not just business books, but not just non-business books either. Listen to podcasts or interviews about things you don’t know much about. Watch documentaries and shows on new ways of thinking. Stretch your understanding of your business and industry by reading articles that may contain new ideas or new approaches you hadn’t thought of. Allowing yourself to be pushed a bit outside your comfort zone will help you be more flexible and better at spotting solutions you may have missed in the past.
Here are a couple of books I’ve read recently that I enjoyed. Feel free to try one of them out and watch your perspective open up. Both were eye opening looks at leadership that gave me some relevant insights.
Challenge yourself but also leave room to be uplifted. Make sure to surround yourself with things that inspire you. Whatever form that takes. Inspiration comes from many places and can also spark the creative process more effectively when you’re doing mundane tasks too. Paintings, graphic art, music, furniture or even the color of your office walls can help you feel surrounded by possibilities, or stuck in a beige business grind. Add some color to your day and you’ll find yourself smiling at odd times… and just possibly thinking more clearly too.
One of the things I do every morning is to start the day with music. I vary it by my mood, however I like to create mixes that I can play that puts me in a positive mood. In his book “This is Your Brain on Music”, Daniel Levity explains that “music involves nearly every every region of the brain we know about, and nearly every neural subsystem”. Maybe that’s why I like to listen to my mix so much when I’m getting ready for the day.
Listening to music activates the same pleasure areas in your brain that eating does. Areas that have evolved to reward productive behavior that keeps us alive. Perhaps this is where the idea that music nourishes the soul comes from. Below is a song that I like to listen to when I’m feeling overwhelmed or struggling to keep perspective when things aren’t going my way.
It is on several of my music mixes, especially the one I titled “Morning Coffee”. It has many songs that make me smile, tap my feet or want to move around. That musical energy is great for morning (I’m not a morning person by nature)… and it can pull me out of a slump to get me on track to have a great meeting, be more productive, or just make my day a bit brighter.
Business isn’t all making plans and executing them. Sometimes it takes extra effort or a boost of inspiration to get us over the hump. Use the tools you have but also learn to get more tools by exposing yourself to new ideas and ways of doing things. Surround yourself by people and things and experiences that motivate you to move forward, not just look backward. Life moves forward, time moves forward. Growing and stretching is natural. Learn from the past, live in the present and look forward to a wonderful future.
What do you use to inspire or motivate yourself during the day? Leave a comment below and tell me, I’d love to know.
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